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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

3io                           THE GAY GENIUS

He was always interested in little things. One novelty that had
fascinated him years before, when he was in confinement at Huang-
chow, was a farmers' device, called a "floating horse", used at the time
of planting seedlings in rice-fields. Planting rice was always a back-
breaking task, the farmers having to wade in the flooded fields and
bend over their work all day. The floating horse was a device like a
small float upon which the farmers could sit while planting, and move
about by using their legs as paddles, while the horse's head served as a*'
receptacle for holding the seedlings. It speeded up the work and
lessened the labour. He wanted to introduce it to the south. He was
so enthusiastic about it that he recommended it in many of the letters
he wrote to his friends. Sending a magistrate to his new post, he told
him to introduce the floating horse and advised him that the secret of
success as a magistrate lay in behaving so that "the people would not be
afraid of the officials'*.

Shorn of his power and persona non grata with the ruling regime, Su
Tungpo had outgrown his young ambition to make his "emperor the
best", or to change the destiny of an empire. He was just a plain citizen
of Huichow, and his problems were the problems of his neighbours,
Mr. Chai and Mrs. Lin, an old woman wine-brewer who let him have
wine on credit. His friends were the Taoists Wu Fuku and Lu
Weichien and the Buddhist priests of Lofu. He had many friends
among the scholars and magistrates.

He could not be a public servant, but he could still be a public-
minded citizen. Canton, the capital of the province, was near-by, and
the magistrate Wang Ku was his friend. Aware of the frequent
epidemics at Canton, Su wrote to Wang Ku to have a fund provided*
for the founding of a public hospital, as he had done at Hangchow.
The people of Canton, too, like the people of Hangchow, were suffer-
ing from bad drinking water, which was one of the causes of disease
in the city. A Taoist monk he knew had a complete plan for guiding
mountain water to the city of Canton. There was one good well in the
city, available only'to the officials. However, seven miles out, there was
good spring water on a very much higher level than the city itself. Su
recommended the Buddhist priest's plan to Wang Ku and suggested
the construction of water mains to guide this spring water into Canton.
These mains could be made of large sections of bamboo, which grew
abundantly in eastern Kwangtung. A great stone reservoir was to be
built at the mountain spring and five bamboo pipe-lines were to carry
the water from the mountain to another big stone reservoir in the city.
Su Tungpo went into considerable detail about the pipe-lines, which
he had known in his own province. Hemp cords were used to join the
sections and these were then coated with a heavy layer of lacquer to
make them leakproof. At every section a small hole was made and